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Colorado: New wildlife roundtable forming

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Colorado mule deer browsing. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

State resource managers seek input from hunters and anglers

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —With deer herds in northwestern Colorado declining and the state’s trout likely facing another long, dry summer, wildlife managers may be looking at some tough choices in the months ahead.

To get some input from active hunters and anglers in the region, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is putting together regional caucuses to meet and discuss wildlife issues with managers, biologists and agency officials, with an upcoming meeting set for Feb. 20 in Grand Junction (6 p.m. at the Clarion Hotel, 755 Horizon Drive).

In addition to the wildlife-related discussion, attendees will select two delegates to represent the region’s wildlife concerns at the newly formed Sportsmen’s Roundtable to be held in Denver next month. The roundtable will provide hunters and anglers from the four regions of the state with direct access to agency officials, including wildlife commissioners. Continue reading

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Biodiversity: Feds propose endangered species listing, critical habitat designation for rare Gunnison sage-grouse

Colorado wildlife officials disappointed by listing proposal

Colorado Gunnison Sage-grouse critical habitat map

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed designating about 1.7 million acres of critical habitat for Gunnison sage-grouse in Colorado and Utah.

Gunnison sage-grouse

A male Gunnison sage-grouse struts as part of its spring mating ritual. Photo courtesy BLM.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Despite ongoing voluntary conservation measures, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said this week that the best available science indicates that the Gunnison sage-grouse is in danger of extinction and needs protection under the Endangered Species Act.

By some estimates, there are only about 4,000 to 5,000 of the iconic western birds remaining, scattered in eight small population pockets in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah. As a result, the USFWS has proposed listing the species as endangered and also proposed designating about 1.7 million acres of critical habitat.

The proposal triggers a 60-day public comment period, with input due by March 12. The agency will also hold a series of public meetings to take input from residents and landowners in areas that could be affected by the listing. The meetings will likely be held in Gunnison, Montrose, Delta and Cortez, Colorado, or in Monticello, Utah and will be advertised at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/. Continue reading

Colorado: Conservation easement on 15,000-acre Moffat County ranch to protect critical big game winter range

Pronghorn antelope foraging in sagebrush habitat near Gunnison Colorado. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

GOCO, feds and state pitch in on major conservation deal

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A new conservation easement on the 15,000-acre Tuttle Ranch in Moffat County will help protect important wildlife habitat and winter range while allowing ranching operations to continue.

The ranch encompasses sagebrush steppe, foothills grassland and pinyon-juniper woodlands, with habitat for greater sage-grouse and critical winter range for elk, mule deer and pronghorn.

The conservation easement was purchased from the RSH Land Company LLC, with a combination of funds from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and lottery-funded Great Outdoors Colorado. Continue reading

Colorado biologists planning statewide lynx assessment

Habitat occupancy assessment to help monitor status of population

A lynx in the wilds of Colorado. Photo courtesy Tanya Shenk, Colorado Division of Wildlife.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists say they’re close to finalizing a plan to monitor the state’s lynx population by assessing habitat occupancy. If successful, the strategy would enable researchers to determine whether the population of endangered wild cats is sustaining itself over time.

The habitat occupancy model was tested in a pilot program in core lynx habitat in the San Juans a couple of years ago, showing that about 50 to 60 percent of the available lynx habitat is occupied. Now the biologists are trying to figure out if they can use the same method to keep tabs on lynx across the entire state.

Lynx have been listed as a threatened species since 2000, with a population in New Mexico currently under consideration for listing as a candidate species. Colorado launched a restoration program in 1999, transplanting more than 200 lynx from Canada and Alaska to the San Juans.

The reintroduction effort was declared a success about two years ago, after 10 years of intensive monitoring, with on-the ground visits to lynx dens, as well as tracking via airplanes and satellites. The tracking shows that the population has spread northward, with resident, breeding lynx up through the Collegiate Range and even into Summit County, with pockets of populations north of I-70.

In a draft report on the pilot study, biologists said it’s not feasible to accurately estimate population numbers, but assessing habitat use and occupancy can help determine whether the population is stable, growing or declining — and might also show trends in habitat use, for example in response to changing forest conditions. Colorado Parks and Wildlife lynx research is online here. Continue reading

Key federal wildlife funding measure turns 75 this month

Pittman-Robertson Act crucial to maintaining Colorado game herds

Funding derived from the Pittman-Robertson Act helped Colorado establish a moose population. Photo by Bob Berwyn.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Without much fanfare, wildlife managers around the country are celebrating a milestone this month, as the Pittman-Robertson Act turns 75.

If you’ve never heard of the Pittman-Robertson Act, you’re probably not alone, but if you value wildlife, you’ve probably benefited from what might is probably the single most effective funding tool for wildlife management and restoration.

Along with a companion measure — The Dingell-Johnson Act — passed several years later, the 11 percent excise tax on firearms and ammunition has helped restore charismatic species like wild turkeys, bald eagles and peregrine falcons. In Colorado, the funds have also been used to help pay for management and operations at 300 state wildlife areas. Continue reading

Colorado: Highway lynx crossings documented

Study tracks north-south movement with more than 10 years of data

“Due to the poor precision of telemetry location estimates and the amount of time elapsed between locations, the straight line movement paths depicted in this analysis DO NOT represent exact or even approximate locations where lynx crossed I-70.” ~ Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Continue reading

Colorado: Bucket biologists endanger native fish

Southwestern Colorado trout fishery threatened by bass

Smallmouth bass illegally introduced to Colorado waters threaten native fish.

SUMMIT COUNTY — Bucket biologists are causing more headaches for Colorado wildlife managers by illegally stocking fish, including smallmouth bass at Miramonte Reservoir in San Miguel County.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is now planning to eradicate smallmouth bass by using an organic pesticide to kill all the fish in the reservoir and then rebuild this renowned trout fishery that attracts anglers from throughout the West. The operation is tentatively scheduled to occur in late summer or fall of 2013.

Along with threatening trout in the reservoir, the smallmouth bass are also a potential threat to three native fish species: Roundtail chub, the bluehead sucker and the flannelmouth sucker

In the meantime, Parks and Wildlife is implementing an emergency order that removes all bag and possession limits on smallmouth bass at Miramonte Reservoir.

“Killing all the fish in the reservoir lake is something we wish we didn’t have to do, but we know we must,” said Renzo DelPiccolo, area wildlife manager in Montrose. “People who illegally move fish into lakes, ponds and rivers are not only committing a criminal act, they are endangering native species, stealing a resource and recreational opportunity from thousands of anglers and negatively impacting the local community.” Continue reading

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